As the desire to travel increases these days, the number of ways to communicate with friends and family while away, unfortunately, decreases. It becomes difficult to stay in touch with others who aren't as geographically close to you as they once were. Thanks to our smartphones though, staying in touch is very possible! Here are 5 free apps that will help you stay connected with friends, without the expensive long distance rates (when used with free WiFi).
Featuring an easy-to-use interface - Viber offers free texting and calling, as well as voice, video and picturing messaging with other Viber users on any network, in any country. There is no registration required, just a simple SMS activation code that is sent to your device to ensure that you are the correct user. Once activated, Viber instantly syncs with your contact list and you can begin chatting with any of your contacts that also have the app. You can opt to have it run constantly in the background of your device, so that you don't have to continually re-open the app. Another bonus is that you can easily transfer the app to your desktop computer to continue your conversations, and vice versa. Group chat is also available. For those who want to make the occasional call to a landline or non-Viber user, Viber also offers a low cost way to do so with Viber Out. Simply load up on some credits and be on your way!
Compatibility: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Bada, Nokia, Windows 8 and Desktop
Tango is more of a fun and engaging social networking app that features free text, video and voice messaging. Once installed, you must register and complete a profile. You can then search for friends or people near to your location that also have the app, and begin chatting. You can share photos and music on your news feed, as well as comment and like your friends posts. There are plenty of channels to join that represent brands that might interest you, and a bunch of games to play too. Group chat is also available.
Compatibility: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Kindle, Windows Phone
One of the most popular messaging apps, WhatsApp offers a simple interface and basic text messaging as well as unlimited picture, video and audio messaging. Group chat is available as well. There is no registration required either, just a quick and simple SMS activation code. Your contacts are then automatically synced with the app, and your friends and family that are already using WhatsApp are placed into a "Favourites" list. The app also runs constantly in the background so that you don't have to reopen it every time you want to use it.
Compatibility: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, Symbian, Windows Phone
Skype is the go-to app when it comes to free video calling. It's super easy to use and works across a bunch of different devices and platforms, which makes it perfect for connecting with friends and family from afar. After creating a profile, you have to manually search for friends and family who are also on Skype, or have them add you. Skype also features instant messaging, picture messaging, file sharing, call forwarding and screen sharing. Group video calls and chat are also offered. For those who want to send SMS messages or call landlines, Skype also offers a low cost way to do so by simply purchasing credits under your account.
Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Nokia X, BlackBerry (also select game consoles, computers, home phones and smart TVs)
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)
Recently released to support more platforms, the infamous BlackBerry Messenger offers free messaging, voice calls, picture and document sharing with others using the app. Once you've registered, you're given a PIN that your phone number will be identified with. You can add contacts using their PIN or vice versa. With BBM messages, you can see when your messages have been delivered and read, which can be seen as both a bonus and downside depending on personal preference. BBM also offers channels that you can join in and chat with others about common interests.
Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry